I believe my old gran had the right idea. Her favourite proverbs were “money is the root of all evil” and “what you sow you reap.” She had a phrase of her own too when proffering a homemade present “the best I can do for ninepence.” She was a beautiful woman despite the fact that she spent most of her life encased in a huge corset as a result of part of the house falling down during the Blitz.
She had had a very basic of education but worked her way up in ‘the rag trade.’ However much of her life was spent thinking of others, raising funds for The London City Mission, giving employment to the less fortunate people in our neighbourhood and once or twice taking in the homeless to share our family home on Dartmouth Park Hill. Although my own mother never quite forgave her for making her give a treasured doll to a child of similar age in the workhouse!
But it was still gran who steered her extended family through the injustices and consequences of the Second World War, with dear old grandpa in tow. He still worked, most of his life in the family greengrocers ‘Parkin and Sons’ in Goodge Street in London, despite suffering shell shock and gassing in the Great War.
I was so busy pondering all this and the meaning of life in general (while still in bed nursing a dreadful cold) that I nearly missed a message that popped into my in-box asking me to check out one of my little used networking sites! Why not?
Five minutes later, and why am I even surprised I don’t know, to discover that people I had met in Brighton in the last few years as writers, poets and even standup comics, had got very different lives to the ones I had imagined. Several were company directors, with cvs a mile long and impressive testimonials. They were. it would appear, still in the business of ‘the management of change’.
I was an established freelance consultant/trainer myself (with rather more modest claims) until five years ago. But decided to cancel all my contracts when my mother died in a hospital be-devilled by over-work and poor management, so much so patients suffered. Only ploughing money into basic services, giving staff time to do their jobs properly would have helped, not training.
Once, in the eighties, I applied for a job at the BBC to set up an equal opportunities unit. I even got as far as the interview! But something told me even then that the job itself was tokenism. Surprise, surprise, or no surprise at all to discover sexism had probably been sleeping under the bed for years.
Thus we now hear so many sad stories about abuse within the care-home system, dying without dignity within the NHS, and potentially those in the know turning a blind eye to abuse within the BBC.
Give me the industry and commitment of people like my gran any day, bring back matrons, pour real money into ‘care for the elderly’, sack any ostriches found at the BBC!
And when we get to marking the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War in 2014, I just hope that people of today are made aware of the values of the ordinary people, like my Gran and Grandpa.
Back to frivolity tomorrow!